With less than two minutes left in the game against No. 6 Richmond Thursday, redshirt sophomore forward Mayowa Taiwo scored a game-tying layup. But the Spiders outlasted No. 11 GW in overtime to advance to the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament.
The Colonials (9-14, 5-9 A-10) played lights-out defense in the second half, but their offense misfired and the Spiders (13-8, 9-6 A-10) secured a 58–54 victory in the second round of the tournament.
The Colonials shot at a 37.3 percent rate, compared to Richmond’s 33.9 percent shooting, but they faltered from three-point territory and the free throw line. GW sank just two of its 18 attempts from deep and converted 42.1 percent of its shots from the charity stripe.
“To shoot, what was it, 8-for-19 in an overtime game – it’s pretty rough,” head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said. “But as I tell them all the time, it’s never just one thing. Things add up. We didn’t need to be down 14 at halftime to have to rely on free throws, or we could have made some free throws and won the game in regulation.”
Taiwo led the way for GW, leading all players with 19 points and 11 rebounds, and adding five steals. Graduate student guard Jasmine Whitney notched 13 points to go along with six steals in the effort. Freshman center Ali Brigham, who led GW in scoring entering the contest, fouled out after managing seven points in 25 minutes of play.
Junior forward Emma Squires paced the Spiders with 18 points. Junior guard Kate Klimkiewicz added 15 points, 12 of which came in the first half, and 11 boards.
The Colonials got off to a fast start, as Brigham and Taiwo both converted layups for a 4-0 GW lead within two minutes.
After Squires knocked down a triple that edged the Spiders ahead 10–9, redshirt junior guard Gabby Nikitinaite nailed a jumper that gave GW its final advantage until overtime as Richmond led 18–14 at the end of the first frame.
The second quarter was marked by a series of scoring runs from both sides. The Spiders opened the frame by scoring nine unanswered points to increase their lead to 27–14 with seven minutes remaining in the half.
GW was able to respond, spurred on by defensive pressure that forced five Richmond turnovers in the frame. A 10-2 Colonial run, including four points from Taiwo and a triple from Nikitinaite, brought GW into striking distance at 29–24.
The Colonials’ wheels fell off track in the final two minutes of the half as Klimkiewicz and Squires took control. The duo combined for 11 points, providing a 40–26 cushion for the Spiders heading into the locker room.
Three-point shooting and rebounding were difference makers in the first half, as GW sank 22.2 percent of its shots from outside compared to the Spiders’ 66.7 percent clip. Richmond dominated the glass, ripping 23 boards to GW’s 10.
“I think we got a lot of good shots, they just didn’t fall,” Whitney said. “Some of the ones we needed didn’t fall, and that’s OK.”
Luma got the Colonials off on the right foot , swishing a jumper from the free throw line on the first possession of the second half. Whitney added a bucket and Taiwo knocked down two free throws in the first five minutes of the quarter. Junior guard Aniyah Carpenter added a three for Richmond as her team led 43–32 midway through the frame.
Squires sank another long ball with three minutes left in the quarter to restore Richmond’s lead to 14 points, but Taiwo notched four straight to close the deficit to 10 entering the fourth quarter.
“Coming back from my ankle injury, I just wanted to make an impact,” Taiwo said. “I knew that I love defense and I love bringing that energy, so that was one of the first things that I wanted to bring back to the team, and whenever I’m playing well on defense it helps me with my offense.”
Whitney and Brigham both scored within the first 90 seconds of the fourth frame, prompting a quick timeout from the Spiders as the Colonials closed in 48–42. GW’s defense was suffocating, holding Richmond without a point until the 2:59 mark.
“You know, we had a couple guys in foul trouble early, made a few defensive mistakes, and got ourselves in a hole,” Rizzotti said. “I just think it would be easy to give up, and I talked a little bit yesterday about this team finding its identity and part of that is on the defensive end of the floor.”
The Colonials kept fighting until Whitney stole the ball and went coast-to-coast for a layup that brought the team within two. Taiwo got into the paint and threw up an off-balance shot that found the bottom of the bucket and tied the game at 50 apiece with 1:40 left in the match.
Both teams missed opportunities to take the lead as the clock wound down, and time stood still as junior guard Claire Holt put up a wide-open three at the buzzer. Holt’s shot was off the mark, sending the game to overtime.
Taiwo delivered with a layup to give GW its first lead since the first quarter. After a Richmond response, Brigham put GW back on top, 54–52, with 50 seconds left.
On the next possession, Squires exploded to the basket and converted an and-one from which the Colonials could not recover. On their next possession, trailing 55–54, Brigham passed the ball straight to Spider senior guard Alex Parson, who dished to a rushing Klimkiewicz to make it a three-point game.
Now needing a three-pointer to tie, Brigham turned the ball over again and Klimkiewicz converted a crucial free throw to seal the win.
The Colonials’ nine wins are its fewest since the 2010-11 campaign, although this year’s schedule was abbreviated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. GW made it to the second round of the conference championship for the first time since the 2017-18 squad went all the way to the NCAA Tournament.
“Right now, I just want to console these guys,” Rizzotti said. “I’ve got a lot of work to do in the offseason, but this is the group I want to be able to work with. These are the guys that have shown me that we can be good, that we can compete and that they want to be here and they want to be invested.”